Deb Kozak (left) is the mayor-elect of Nelson. She will be one of seven female mayors in West Kootenay during the next term.

Number of women elected in West Kootenay holds steady

The number of women elected to local office in West Kootenay/Boundary on Saturday was about the same as three years ago.

The number of women elected to local office in West Kootenay/Boundary on Saturday was about the same as three years ago, but several firsts were established.

Overall, 62 women were voted in as mayors, councillors, regional directors and school trustees (45.6 per cent of the total) compared to 64 in 2011. Nearly 73 per cent of women who ran for office this time were elected, compared to 68 per cent last time.

Seven of 16 municipalities will have female mayors — breaking the previous record of six set in 2011 — while 30 women will serve on councils, down from 32 in the previous election.

Women will form a majority on six municipal councils, the same number as before.

A woman was chosen as mayor in seven of the eight communities where one ran.

Nelson elected Deb Kozak as its first female mayor, leaving Trail and Warfield as the only places that have never had a woman serve as mayor. However, there were encouraging signs on both of those fronts: for the first time, three women were elected to Trail council — Lisa Pasin, Carol Dobie, and incumbent Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson — and for the second time, a woman topped the polls (Pasin). Only one woman — Dianne Langman — ran in Warfield, but she also finished at the top.

Rossland elected its second female mayor in Kathy Moore, although she will be the lone female on council, as fellow mayoral challenger Jill Spearn was the only other woman in the race. Rossland’s loss of three women from council will be the highest drop of any local municipality.

On the flip side, Grand Forks saw the greatest increase, going from one woman in 2011 to four in 2014.

New Denver mayor Ann Bunka and Fruitvale mayor Patricia Cecchini were both returned by acclamation, while Nakusp mayor Karen Hamling was re-elected. During the next term, Hamling will become the village’s longest serving mayor, beating former mayor Rosemarie Johnson’s record of 12 years.

Meanwhile, Kaslo elected its second woman mayor in longtime councillor Suzan Hewat and Slocan elected its fourth in Jessica Lunn, who narrowly defeated fellow incumbent councillor Hillary Elliott. For the last two terms, Slocan has had an all-female council. That streak has been broken, but women will still hold a majority of seats.

The greatest number of elected women are in Nelson and Grand Forks, with four each, while the fewest are in Midway, Rossland, Salmo, and Warfield, with one each. While it took Nelson 96 years to elect a woman as mayor after they became eligible to run, women have formed a majority on council since 2008.

Seven women secured seats as regional district directors this time, up from five in 2011, while 18 were elected school trustees, down from 21.

This story will appear in the West Kootenay Advertiser